Nothing really happens outside the protagonist's head in this book, but the author's virtuosic command of voice sustains the narrative momentum.
This English-language debut by a young Spanish novelist could have been titled Joan-Marc’s Complaint, though the narrator doesn’t share the masturbatory obsession of Philip Roth’s hero. Yet he spews at length about his predicament in a soliloquy that extends past 300 pages and doesn’t pause for chapter breaks or have extra spaces to separate one section from the next. He is savagely funny, sometimes intentionally but often not, and his faith in “the healing power of humor” does not lead to the solution he desires. But what does he desire? And who is he? What is plain from the outset is that the narrator’s opinion of himself differs sharply from that of everyone else who enters his consciousness. The setup is that the narrator and his wife have come to a health spa at her instigation in order to heal their marriage. Accompanying them are her parents and a young boy, who must be the wife’s son but whose relationship to the narrator remains mysterious. The narration will return to the spa from time to time, but the scope of memory widens as the protagonist reveals that he is writing (or speaking) to his second wife about his marriage to his first wife and how the two were very different but ended much the same way. Why? “It’s the story of my life,” he says. “Neither of you could ever recognize my obvious merits.” To the contrary, one or both of his wives and the sister who despises him will, over the course of his tale, call him a homophobe, a repressed homosexual, a hypochondriac, a man who wants others to support him, and “a collection of missing pieces.” As narrator and reader attempt to put that puzzle together, the narration becomes darker and deeper until the protagonist realizes just how alone he is and how old he has become. “Sometimes I have the feeling that no matter what I do, life is impossible,” he says. “That’s the only lesson to learn, the only one we don’t want to learn.”
This novel should spark interest in Torné's previous two and anticipation for what’s to come.